I have always wanted to travel out of the country, and studying abroad seemed like a perfect opportunity for the young, adventurous and broke (thanks, scholarships, parents and grandma for getting me to Japan). I’ve spent too much time scrolling through other college friends’ study abroad photos online. Natalie went to Italy, Ben went to Spain and London, and Allie went to Germany. I wanted to go somewhere, too: somewhere different than all of my friends. “Japan!” I thought to myself. In my head, a switch had turned on. How was I going to get there?

One day in my media writing class, Dr. Martinez came in to talk about the first-ever Texas State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication trip to Japan. He mentioned you could take Travel Journalism and Feature Writing as course credits. This was perfect for me. “I get to blog about my time abroad AND make videos of it for grades? Sign me up!”

And I did. After saving up money from my job, snagging a couple of scholarships and using my “puppy dog” eyes on my family, I, finally, had enough funds to travel abroad. I got to spend two weeks in the magical, mysterious lands of Tokyo and Kyoto. Those were the best two weeks of my college career thus far.

I was a bit nervous about traveling with a group of strangers. I consider myself a very friendly, outgoing person, but I still had butterflies. I was going to a completely different country. This meant language barriers, cultural differences, and many other obstacles. I needed these strangers to survive (I’m a bit dramatic, but it’s probably true) whether I wanted to admit it or not. However, these people are not strangers at all to me anymore. In fact, I consider them some of my best friends.

Together, we made it through Japan with smiles no matter what happened. If one of us ran out of yen, we could count on a buddy to spot us some cash until we could find the nearest 7-Eleven convenience store. If we got lost on a subway, we could always count on somebody to help us get back to our hotel. Jakob and Jon were pretty much Louis and Clark on many of my expeditions. If we couldn’t read a menu, one of us would whip out a phone with the handy-dandy Google Translate app. Wow, I’m so glad I didn’t order the shirako (fish sperm sack).

We had plenty of fun while abroad! One day, Dr. Martinez took us to a Japanese baseball game. Let me just say, Japanese baseball fans are WAY more enthusiastic than American baseball fans. It may be hard to believe, but trust me! I really enjoyed the arcades in Tokyo; they had so many games that I have never seen before. Also, I highly recommend doing karaoke if you’re ever in Japan (don’t worry, they have all your favorite English-language songs). On my last day abroad, I went to Universal Studios Japan where I got to ride so many Japanese, adrenaline-pumping rollercoasters! There are a lot more activities that I enjoyed, but it would take forever to name them all.

My favorite parts of Japan were nature and people. The temples and shrines were beautiful and full of rich history. I loved learning about each one. Traveling through the mountains of Kyoto was also a favorite for me. I have never seen anything so amazing. The lush, green trees covering the mountainsides: it’s a view that I’ll never forget. I hope that one day, I can go back to see the pink cherry blossoms bloom. The people were the friendliest, most polite people I have ever met. The Japanese people who worked in customer service always had the biggest smiles on their faces, and they loved to try to talk to us. We, as students, knew a little Japanese; most of them knew a little English, and together, we had wholesome, sweet conversations. On the subways, the train cars were silent (besides the chatter coming from the students). Not once did I get pushed or shoved, even in rush hour. I’ve been to New York City, so this was a shocking experience.

I could go on and on about my time in Japan. Quite honestly, I think my parents are getting tired of me starting most of my sentences with “When I was in Japan…” But that’s okay because I know that if they went on the same SJMC study abroad trip that I went on, they wouldn’t stop talking about it either.

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